Kafala System to Top Agenda of GCC Talks

The kafala system, which requires all workers in most Gulf states to have a sponsor responsible for their visa and legal status, will top the agenda of the meeting of labor ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Kuwait on Tuesday, a GCC statement said. Adel Fakeih, labor minister, will lead the Saudi delegation to the GCC meeting.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the ministers will also hold talks within the framework of the third round of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, an inter-regional forum on labor migration from Asian to Gulf countries. The ministers will discuss their experiences of the labor market and employment problems faced by the youth.

“The four-day meeting will focus on protection of workers and immigration policies,” said a Gulf diplomat. He said the meeting will also discuss the subjects to be tabled before the GCC summit in Doha next month. The ministers will also discuss a draft contract for domestic workers and the formation of a cross-GCC body to oversee migration of domestic workers.

The kafala system will be discussed in detail as some member states of the GCC have either nearly abolished the system or are about to annul it. The system, implemented to varying extents across the Gulf, restricts workers from moving to a new job before their contracts end, trapping many in abusive situations. In most Gulf states, expatriate workers cannot leave the country without obtaining their employer’s consent for an “exit permit” to submit to the passport authorities.

(Source: Riyadh: Ghazanfar Ali Khan – Arab News)

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